Hansel and Gretel is one of the many oral folk tales that German brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, first published into written literary works. The Grimm brothers, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Anderson were architects of children’s literature. The Grimm’s first publishings were not intended for children due to the subject matter. In fact, they revised editions to better suit children. For example, in Hansel and Gretel, the wicked stepmother was originally the mother. In modern literature, fairy tales are often labeled as cliche, however; they teach important life lessons and psychological concepts.
In Collection Of Stories For 4 Year Olds by Parragon Books, their version of Hansel and Gretel exposes young readers to the original one. The whimsical illustrations in this book help to bring a lightness to the text. In Hansel and Gretel the parents abandon the children in the forest because they are poor and do not have enough food, although it is primarily the stepmother who pushes the idea. These events immediately cement the theme of fear. There is also an evil witch who wants to eat the children, and let us not forget how Gretel ultimately murders the evil witch by pushing her into the oven in order to save herself and Hansel. These themes such as fear, isolation, separation anxiety, cannibalism and murder, are perhaps not appropriate to discuss with children, but might the benefits outweigh the negative connotations?
Lets examine these themes psychologically. In fairy tales, the protagonists are usually isolated in some sense; the story’s development allows for the characters to be guided, saved or destined by an unseen force, such as in Hansel and Gretel. It resembles the journey of all beings; to both loose and find our way through pain and suffering. This pain and suffering is what ultimately aligns our purpose in this world. Themes such as cannibalistic witches and even murder are universal concepts for understanding a moral compass, reinforcing what children already know; there is either good or evil in our world. There is nothing in between.
These themes also provide emotional awareness by helping the reader associate sympathy and antipathy for characters. Children crave justice, so if the evil witch would not have been punished for her evil deeds, it would not benefit the reader’s essential understanding of justice. Gretel murdering the witch is justified as an act of courage and bravery.
It is important as children become older to expose them to original folk and fairy literary tales. It is through this exposure that they will have the opportunity to learn important psychological, historical and cultural aspects. Hansel and Gretel paints young readers a picture of the past where famine and starvation were the key role in separating families.
What memories do you hold of Hansel and Gretel? What morals and lessons did they align you with?
“The witch is dead!” cried Gretel, and she set Hansel free. As they left, the children discovered the house was full of jewels and gold. So they filled their pockets and set off home. Their father was overjoyed to see them. He told them that their stepmother had left, and they now had nothing to fear. Hansel and Gretel showed their father the jewels and gold, and they never went poor or hungry again.